Light from 12 billion year-old explosion hits Earth

Cheryl Santa Maria
Digital Reporter

Wednesday, June 4, 2014, 8:13 PM - Light from a massive explosion that took place more than 12 billion years ago -- not long after the Big Bang -- has finally reached Earth, astronomers have announced.

The light, which is a gamma-ray burst, was detected at 11 p.m. local time on April 19, 2014 by a robotic telescope owned by Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas.

Scientists say the 12-billion year old light burst was bright enough to be seen in our night sky.

Gamma-ray bursts are rare explosions that arise from the collapse of a dying star. While astronomers don't know a lot about them, the discovery could provide new information about the formation of our universe.

"As NASA points out, gamma-ray bursts are the most powerful explosions in the universe since the Big Bang," Farley Ferrante, a grad student at SMU, said in a statement.

Image of the Gamma-ray burst, dubbed 1404191, courtesy of Southern Methodist University.

Image of the Gamma-ray burst, dubbed 1404191, courtesy of Southern Methodist University.

"These bursts release more energy in 10 seconds than our Earth's sun [will] during its entire expected lifespan of 10 billion years."

Some of the gamma-ray bursts detected appear to be related to supernovae, corresponding to the death of a massive star.

These elusive light bursts first became detectable in the late 1990s.


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